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For many people, a trip to South Korea usually involves itineraries that include the capital Seoul and if time permits a short trip to Busan, Daegu, or Incheon. My point is, a few people know about other great cities in South Korea with a lot to offer. Seoul is a beautiful city, don’t get me wrong. It has plenty of attractions that might take you weeks to see all, but sometimes it is good to break the rut and instead of booking a flight to the capital, head to the Honam region. Here you will find a city called Gwangju, which means “light province.”
Gwangju is usually overlooked and underrated in terms of travel, but don’t be fooled, it has lots to offer. And that is what we are going to look at today.
Best Things to Do in Gwangju
If you are new to the city, it will do you a lot of good to learn about the cultural history of the region. Gwangju National Museum contains important collections of artifacts, paintings, and calligraphies dating back to the era of Joseon.
The museum has been serving visitors since 1978 and its architecture is inspired by the traditional Korean style.
The museum has two floors. The first floor is focused on exhibitions while the second floor is dedicated to ceramics recovered from a shipwreck from the 14th century.
On the outside, you will find lots of monuments scattered all over the compound.
The best part is that it’s a free museum!
With the summit standing at 1,187 meters, Mudeungsan National Park offers a great opportunity to refresh and enjoy the vistas of the city below. The peak can be reached via various trails that start at the Wonhyo-sa temple, which also happened to have a bell from the 1700s.
The rocky bluffs, including Ipseok-dae and Seoseok-dae, are worth seeing.
Though this tea field is located outside the city, a day trip there is worth it. The sprawling hills of lavish green tea manors are sights to behold. Besides the beautiful landscape, you will also get to learn how fresh tea leaves are harvested, processed, and sampled. Enjoy a freshly prepared tea while taking in the breathtaking views of the plantations.
If you are still up for more relaxation, take a bus ride to the nearby Yulpo Beach and enjoy the beautiful coastline.
Having been around since the tome of the Three Kingdoms Period, this hill has significant historical importance to the People of Korea. Surrounded by century-old forest, if you look around, you will be able to find a stone alter podium to various deities from between the 1st and 7th centuries.
You will also find plenty of modern shrines including one used for sacrifices during the infamous Korean War.
But the highlight of the park is the observation tower, which was built in 2014. There are two ways to reach the top of the tower – using stairs or an elevator. On top of the tower, you can see the Gwangju skyline.
A baseball game outside the United States and Canada seems unthinkable. But that is until you visit the Gwangju-Kia Champions Field, a home grounds for the Kia Tigers. The stadium can accommodate more than 22,000 people.
Kia Tigers is the Yankees of South Korea, and if you are a fan of baseball, you will feel right at home cheering them on. However, note that the baseball season commences in April and ends in November, while games kick off at 5 p.m. and run through 6.30 p.m.
Located within the Gwangju High-tech Science Industrial Complex is the striking Gwangju National Science Museum.
Everything here is hi-tech, and you will feel like you have just stepped into the future. “Light” is the major motif of this museum.
There is a section called the World of Light, which is dedicated to everything light, including its properties.
Inside, you will also find a playground, which is a great place for kids, and an auditorium as well as a 3D Theater for experiments and robot dance shows.
Though many thought it would be affected when large shopping stores arrived in the city, Daein Market is still going strong. While admittedly it was slightly affected, the empty stalls were transformed into art galleries.
Today, the market spans six districts and includes art studios, gift shops, food stores, and everything you would want from a busy open market.
Another historic market you can browse, 1913 Songjeong Station Market is located just across the street from Gwangju Songjeong Station. Just like the Daein Market, it also experienced some trying moments until it was transformed into a trendy hub a few years ago. This included refurbishing the buildings along the alleys and addition of new food stores, cafés, and pop-up stores.
The market is also a great place to try out some delicious street food.
Located about a half an hour from central Gwangju by bus, the Lake Eco Park is an ideal place for unwinding and escape the busy city life. The inviting grassy knoll is great for lying down and enjoying the cool lake breeze while the wooden observation deck is perfect for bird watching.
There are also several trails leading past four-century-old paddles.
Chungjang-ro was the ground zero for the 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement, but today, it is the city’s prime entertainment and shopping hub.
If you want to know about the current fashion trends, Chungjang-ro is the place to be. The street is mostly pedestrianized and hosts annual festivals from the 1970s.
This traditional garden is located just a short distance from Lake Eco Park. It was designed and created in the 16th century to reflect the state of being contented living in poverty and integrity.
The garden is peaceful and is surrounded by mud and stone wall. Inside the walls, you will find an artificial waterfall and a pond as well as two beautiful pavilions.
The moment you come across this building, you will be instantly enticed in by the ostentatious facades of themed pubs, cafés, and restaurants.
Hop into one of the shops and enjoy a hot or cool beverage as you enjoy live music.
ACC organizes live music and dance performances, film screenings, modern and contemporary art shows, festivals, and workshops among many other events and occasions dedicated to the culture of the region.
This mid-sized theme park is ideal for a family day out. It is located on the edge of the Buk-gu district on 290 acres overlooking a lake.
There are plenty of thrilling rides and attractions such as carousels, rollercoaster, pool with slides, and a swinging Viking ship.
Before leaving Gwangju, make sure you set aside at least one afternoon to sample some of the traditional dishes.
You can do this in the following restaurants:
To help you plan out your visit to Gwangju, we listed places to visit and things to do for your itinerary. We also listed some of the best Gwangju travel and tour packages, as well as excellent flight deals and accommodation.
Tripadvisor has a list of the best Gwangju vacation packages. You may check out Airbnbs listings in Gwangju for cheap but high-quality accommodation.
Searching for the best Gwangju hotels, resorts, and affordable flights in the nearby Cities? Check out our list of affordable Gwangju hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.
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